The Way-Too-Early 2012-2013 Bowl Game Projections
The college football season may have ended just two months ago, but it is never too early to predict which teams will make a bowl game next season. Can Alabama defend its National Championship? Can the SEC win its seventh BCS title in a row? How many oddly-named bowl games in December can you say without laughing?
These are a few questions that will not be answered for quite some time, but some college football fans are not that patient. So here is an entirely way-too-early look at the projected bowl games for next season.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Conference Tie-In: Pac-12 No. 7 vs. Mountain West No. 4/5
Projection: Utah vs. Wyoming
Utah will enter its second season in the Pac-12 and should fare about as well as they did last year. The Utes went 8-5 and went to the Sun Bowl. They will fight all year but will end up winning 7 games and play in the first bowl game of the 2012 season.
Wyoming is an improving team but will still not be able to beat the likes of Boise State, Air Force, and San Diego State in the Mountain West. They will have a respectable season but still need more talent to break into the top three in the conference.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Location: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Conference Tie-In: WAC vs. MAC No. 3
Projection: Louisiana Tech vs. Toledo
Winner: Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech won the WAC last season and will do the same this season as the conference lost its most competitive members due to realignment. They have some tough tests in the beginning part of the season but once conference play begins, the Bulldogs should roll.
Toledo will have a new head coach this season as they try to capture the MAC championship. The team will have a very talented offense but its defense needs a lot of work. They will once again be very competitive but will not surpass Northern Illinois as the best team in the MAC West.
R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Conference Tie-In: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. Sun Belt No. 1
Projection: East Carolina vs. Arkansas State
Winner: Arkansas State
East Carolina missed out on a bowl game last season but will earn an invitation this year. With its conference opponents improving, the Pirates will need to keep up in order to become bowl eligible. They will do just enough to step up to this task and win six games.
The Red Wolves of Arkansas State will win the Sun Belt Conference with their QB Ryan Aplin returning. They will have tough battles with Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette but will finish with only one conference loss.
Beef O'Bradys St. Petersburg Bowl
Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
Conference Tie-In: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. Big East No. 6
Projection: Marshall vs. Nevada
Marshall will be a solid team in C-USA and will finish in the top five in the conference. This young team gained a lot of experience last year and will show huge strides on the football field in 2012.
Nevada will take the spot of a Big East team in this bowl game. Nevada has a talented quarterback that will lead the Wolf Pack to an eight win season and give them a bowl invitation.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Conference Tie-In: BYU (pre-determined) vs. MWC No. 2
Projection: BYU vs. San Diego State
BYU has a very favorable schedule in 2012 as an independent. They should get at least nine wins and will flirt with being a top 25 ranked team. They will easily earn a bowl invite to the Poinsettia Bowl.
San Diego State will finish with eight wins and second place in the Mountain West. The loss of their quarterback from last year will prevent them from beating Boise State for the conference title. This team will be good enough though to get to a bowl game.
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
Conference Tie-In: Pac-12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1
Projection: California vs. Boise State
California will have to rely on its offense all year as they lost a lot of defensive playmakers. They will get the advantage of having key conference games at home that will lead them to a seven win season. They need to improve greatly on defense to be a viable threat in the Pac-12.
Although Boise State will lose Kellen Moore, they still have key offensive players that will return. The defense will be good enough to keep the Broncos in every game on the schedule. They have a tough game at Michigan State early but will dominate the Mountain West for another conference championship.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Conference Tie-In: WAC vs. C-USA No. 2-6
Projection: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Hawaii will be in for a tough test in order to make a bowl game after switching to the Mountain West Conference. The Warriors will find a way to win six games and become eligible for a "home" bowl game.
Tulsa has to go up against SMU and Houston in its division to make it to the C-USA title game. They will have enough depth to become bowl eligible but will finish third in their division with a 7-5 record.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Location: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
Conference Tie-In: ACC No. 7 vs. MWC No. 3
Projection: Wake Forest vs. Air Force
Winner: Air Force
Wake Forest has a tough schedule but being in the ACC will help. They made a bowl game last year and will do the same this season. It will not be pretty but Wake Forest will win six games and become bowl eligible.
The Falcons will have a similar showing as Wake Forest. They may not win games convincingly, but they will do enough to win seven games. They will also win the Commander-In-Chief's trophy in 2012.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
Conference Tie-In: Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC No. 2
Projection: Illinois vs. Ohio
Under first year coach Tim Boeckman, Illinois will finish 6-6 thanks to a weak conference schedule. Home games against Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota will greatly assist them in making the postseason.
Ohio will continue its success in the MAC East with another division title in 2012. They will lose to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship but this team keeps improving and will move closer to a conference championship in the future.
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Conference Tie-In: ACC No. 5 vs. Big East No. 3
Projection: Virginia vs. South Florida
Virginia was a surprise team in 2011 by winning eight games. A tough schedule will give the Cavaliers a seven win season next year. A third place finish in the division behind Va Tech and Miami will give the Cavaliers a trip to the Belk Bowl.
South Florida only won a single game in the Big East last year but Skip Holtz has the talent on his team to make a run next season. A weak conference schedule will make the Bulls a competitor in the Big East but they will end up 7-5.
Location: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Conference Tie-In: Army vs. ACC No. 8
Projection: Rutgers vs. North Carolina State
Winner: North Carolina State
Rutgers will take the place of a struggling Army team that will not be bowl eligible. Once again, being in the weak Big East will give this team enough wins to qualify for postseason play. A seven win season will be a decent showing for the Scarlet Knights in 2012.
NC State will have the luxury of its entire offensive line returning. A team that won eight games last year should have a similar record this year as they lost their best three receivers. They will finish in the bottom half of the ACC but will be bowl eligible thanks to a weak non-conference schedule.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Conference Tie-In: Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5
Projection: UCLA vs. Texas Tech
Jim Mora, Jr. is now the head man at UCLA and he will make a huge difference for the Bruins. They went to the Pac-12 Championship last year due to USC's postseason ban, but they will finish second behind the Trojans with a 7-5 record. They will finish in the top five in the conference but with USC and Oregon getting BCS bowls, they will move up to the Holiday Bowl.
Texas Tech will improve on the aerial attack that was very inconsistent last year. They will get Texas and Oklahoma at home this year but will finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12. The Red Raiders will be looking at a 7-5 record at the end of the year.
Champs Sports Bowl
Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
Conference Tie-In: Big East No. 2/Notre Dame vs. ACC No. 3
Projection: Louisville vs. Clemson
Notre Dame will qualify for a BCS bowl, so the Big East will get a bid in this bowl game. Louisville tied for the Big East title last year but lost the tie-breaker to West Virginia. They will be a real contender for the conference title but will lose to Cincinnati and will not get the automatic BCS selection.
Clemson will have a fantastic offense on the field in 2012. With a similar situation like Louisville, Clemson will battle Florida State for the ACC Atlantic division title but will come just short. This team should be able to win 10 games this year with a powerful and quick offensive attack.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Conference Tie-In: Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3
Projection: Washington vs. Oklahoma State
The Huskies are an improving program that could potentially win the Pac-12 North. They have an experienced quarterback and a great tight end. If the defense improves, look out for this team. In the end, Washington will have an 8-4 record and finish behind Oregon in the division.
Oklahoma State loses two great offensive players in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. This will hurt the Cowboys chances of winning the Big 12 and going to another BCS bowl game. They will be a solid team but will lose tough games to Oklahoma and Texas. A third place finish in the conference will be the Cowboys' result.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas
Conference Tie-In: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. MWC
Projection: Southern Mississippi vs. Temple
Southern Mississippi will lose too many key players from last year to repeat as the C-USA champion. They will still be a respectable team but drop from their 12-2 record a year ago to a 8-4 record in 2012. They will win their division in the C-USA but will fall short in the title game.
Temple will join the Big East in 2012 and will have a solid showing in their first year in its new conference. The Owls will finish over .500 and will win some big games in the conference to show they can be a contender.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Conference Tie-In: Big 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4
Projection: Iowa State vs. Pittsburgh
Iowa State has had some big wins in the past couple years and this team should have enough talent to get to the .500 mark. The Cyclones get a few key games at home but will have some tough road games as well. Look for a 6-6 season and a trip to a bowl game for the guys from Ames.
Pittsburgh is expected to bring its entire offense back from last year. Add in the fact they are in the Big East, anything is possible for this team. The will have an up-and-down season and finish with a 7-5 record with a fourth place finish in the conference.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Location: LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
Conference Tie-In: SEC No. 7 vs. ACC No. 6
Projection: Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
Winner: Georgia Tech
Tennessee still has a few more years of rebuilding to be a top competitor in the SEC. They will need to stay healthy in order to have a shot at a bowl game. They will improve slightly from last year but will finish 6-6 and towards the bottom half of the SEC.
Georgia Tech will return every offensive starter from last year and could surprise some people in 2012. With all the experience on the field for the Yellow Jackets, expect an eight win season and finishing in the middle of the ACC.
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Conference Tie-In: Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4-5
Projection: West Virginia vs. Penn State
Winner: West Virginia
West Virginia moves to the Big 12 this season and may have some struggles coming from the Big East. They have a lot of talent on the team and will finish in the top half of the conference. An eight win season is not out of the question for the Mountaineers.
Even with all the distractions that Penn State will have to deal with, the Nittany Lions will be go to a bowl in 2012. They nearly won the Leaders division last season and should be able to get seven wins.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
Conference Tie-In: Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6
Projection: TCU vs. Northwestern
TCU has enough talent to finish with eight wins in their first season in the Big 12. They have a core of solid running backs that will add a number of wins. The will experience a few tough bumps along the way, but the Horned Frogs will have a solid 8-4 showing a go to a bowl game in their home state.
Northwestern will have a lot of depth on their team that will boost their chances for a successful season. If the Wildcats can transition quickly from QB Dan Persa to Kain Colter, this team could easily get seven wins. They have a fairly easy first part of the schedule that they will need to capitalize on to get a bowl invite.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Conference Tie-In: ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Projection: Miami (FL) vs. Stanford
The Hurricanes finished 6-6 last season but self-imposed a bowl ban for their NCAA violations. Look for an improved team under coach Al Golden that will win at least seven games in a weak ACC.
Stanford will be without QB Andrew Luck but will still have enough talent to win eight or nine games. They will not beat out Oregon or Washington in the Pac-12 North and will end up in the Sun Bowl.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Location: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
Conference Tie-In: Navy (pre-determined) vs. Pac-12 No. 6
Projection: Navy vs. Arizona State
Winner: Arizona State
Navy will finish 6-6 in 2012, making them eligible for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Expect them to pull off at least three games where they pull off a win by less than a touchdown.
Arizona State disappointed a lot of experts last season by not performing to the level many thought they were capable of. They will slightly improve from last year but will finish at 7-5 and third place in their division.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Location: Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee
Conference Tie-In: C-USA No. 1 vs. Big East No. 5/SEC No. 8-9
Projection: SMU vs. Mississippi State
Winner: Mississippi State
SMU went 12-2 last season and should expect a similar record in 2012. Their division is the weaker one in the C-USA, giving them an easier path to the conference title game, which the Mustangs will win.
The Big East will not have enough bowl eligible teams to qualify for the Liberty Bowl, so the selection will go to the SEC. Mississippi State will not come close to winning the SEC West but will be bowl eligible, resulting in an invite to Memphis.
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
Conference Tie-In: ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5
Projection: Virginia Tech vs. Florida
After losing in the ACC Championship last year and still getting a BCS bowl invite, the Hokies will not return to a BCS bowl next season. They will make it to the conference title game once again but will lose to Florida State.
Florida will make great improvements from last year but will be behind Georgia and South Carolina in their division. Finishing third in the SEC East will result in a trip to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Location: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Conference Tie-In: C-USA No. 2-6 vs. Big Ten No. 7
Projection: Houston vs. Iowa
Houston loses its stellar quarterback in Case Keenum from last year, but will still win 10 games next year. They will be a contender to win the conference but will end up just short.
Iowa will finish fourth in the Big Ten Legends division. They will lose a few close games and will finish the season 7-5. The Hawkeyes just do not have the talent to beat out Michigan or Nebraska to win the division in 2012.
Capital One Bowl
Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
Conference Tie-In: SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 2
Projection: South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
Winner: South Carolina
South Carolina will have a very good team in 2012. They will beat Georgia at home and will finish the season winning the SEC East. They will not have a team that will compete with LSU and will lose in the SEC title game. With Alabama and LSU getting the BCS invites though, South Carolina will settle for the Capital One Bowl.
Wisconsin will take the Leaders Division of the Big Ten with no problem at all. Ohio State is ineligible to win the division and the rest of the division will be weak in 2012. The Badgers will lose to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship, which they won last season.
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Conference Tie-In: Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3
Projection: Nebraska vs. Georgia
Nebraska is still trying to adjust to the style of the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers will need a more efficient aerial attack in order to win the Big Ten, but they will not have it next season. They will challenge Michigan for the Legends division but will fall just short and will head to the Outback Bowl.
The Bulldogs won the SEC East last year and will win at least nine games next season. The Bulldogs will finish just under South Carolina for the SEC East title in 2012 and will take the trip south to Tampa.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Location: EverBank Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida
Conference Tie-In: Big Ten No. 4-5 vs. SEC No. 6
Projection: Michigan State vs. Auburn
Michigan State will lose a lot of key offensive players from last year. The Spartan defense will be one of the best in the nation though, which alone will win them some games. They will not be able to compete with Michigan or Nebraska for the Legends Division and will end up at number four in the Big Ten.
The Tigers have a very solid team but unfortunately play in the SEC West. They will win 7-8 games but will finish fourth in their own division. The national champions from two seasons ago will head to Jacksonville at the completion of the season.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Location: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Conference Tie-In: Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3-4
Projection: Kansas State vs. Arkansas
Kansas State had a phenomenal year last season and should once again put a solid team on the field in 2012. They will be one of the top teams in the Big 12 but will not be able to beat Oklahoma or Texas. Since the Longhorns will get a BCS bowl invite, the Wildcats will take their place in the Cotton Bowl, where they lost to Arkansas last year.
Arkansas will also be returning to Cowboys Stadium next season. This team is good enough to win any division in the NCAA, but unfortunately they are in the SEC West. Alabama and LSU are better than Arkansas, so the Razorbacks will have to settle for third best in their division for the time being.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Location: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
Conference Tie-In: SEC No. 8-9 vs. Big East No. 5
Projection: Missouri vs. North Carolina
Missouri is going to get a rough welcome to the SEC. While they were a respectable team in the Big 12, the quality of opponents they will see week-to-week will greatly improve this year. They will drop four or five games in the SEC and will end up in the bottom third of the conference, but will be bowl eligible.
North Carolina will be in this bowl game because the Big East will not have enough bowl-eligible teams. This team continues to go through its transition period but will be good enough to just barely get above .500 and earn a bowl invitation.
Location: Ladd-Pebbles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Conference Tie-In: Sun Belt No. 2 vs. MAC No. 1
Projection: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Northern Illinois
Louisiana-Lafayette should be able to handle most of their conference opponents with the exception of Arkansas State. They will lose to Florida and Oklahoma State, giving them 3 losses on the year. They will finish second in the conference and earn a trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Northern Illinois won the Mid-American Conference last year and will do it again in 2012. Toledo will have some troubles adjusting to their new coach, so the Huskies will win the MAC West title. They will handle Ohio in the MAC Championship and will return to Mobile.
Location: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Conference Tie-In: BCS/Big Ten No. 1 vs. BCS/Pac-12 No. 1
Projection: Michigan vs. Oregon
Michigan had a great season under first-year coach Brady Hoke in 2011. Expect a similar showing in 2012. Michigan State loses too many key players and Nebraska is not quite there yet, so the Wolverines will take the Legends division of the Big Ten with ease. They will then face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship since Ohio State will not be eligible. The Wolverines will handle the Badgers and win a trip to Pasadena.
Oregon will be a solid team next season but they will not be able to defeat USC. They will win the Pac-12 North but will lose to USC for a second time in the Pac-12 Championship. USC will qualify for the BCS Championship game, so the nod will go to the Ducks to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Conference Tie-In: BCS/Big 12 No. 1 vs BCS At-Large
Projection: Oklahoma vs. Cincinnati
Oklahoma will have a lot of success next year with Landry Jones returning for his senior season. They will face a tough test at home against Notre Dame but should be able to handle their conference opponents. They will beat out Texas and Kansas State for the Big 12 title and will get the automatic berth to the Fiesta Bowl.
Cincinnati will have the luxury in playing in potentially the weakest BCS conference in history. The Big East has lost teams left and right and will not add its future members until 2013. They had the same conference record as West Virginia and Louisville, but lost the tie-breaker to the Mountaineers. With West Virginia heading to the Big 12, the Bearcats will be able to win this struggling conference in 2012.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Conference Tie-In: BCS/SEC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Projection: Alabama vs. Texas
Alabama will not repeat at the national champion as they will lose to LSU, thus handing the Tigers the SEC West crown. However, an appearance to the Sugar Bowl is still a nice consolation prize. The potential four-team playoff will not come soon enough for the Crimson Tide who will end up number three in the final poll, coming just short of making it to the BCS National Championship.
Texas has gone through a bit of a downswing in recent years but will be a team to deal with in 2012. They will not have a good enough team to take down Oklahoma but they will end up second in the Big 12 and will earn a right to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Discover Orange Bowl
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Conference Tie-In: BCS/ACC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large
Projection: Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Winner: Florida State
Florida State will finally be able to put together a season that will clinch them an ACC championship. This team simply recruits too well and has an outstanding coach not to win the conference. They will likely lose 2 or 3 games, but will still win the ACC.
Notre Dame has an extremely tough schedule this coming season. They will have tough tests against Oklahoma, USC, Michigan, and Miami (FL). However this strength of schedule should help them get a high enough BCS ranking in order for them to qualify for a BCS bowl.
BCS National Championship
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Conference Tie-In: BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2
Projection: LSU vs. USC
Even though LSU lost in the BCS National Championship last year, they are projected to be even better next year. They have a very tough schedule but will get to host Alabama. They will do enough to win each game and enter the BCS title game 13-0.
USC will be back to its old form and should get through the Pac-12 schedule without too much trouble. The toughest games against Oregon and Notre Dame will both be at home, greatly benefiting the Trojans.